SCARBOROUGH - Several school communities in southern Maine are in mourning after a crash Saturday on Payne Road took the life of a Scarborough High School senior on his way to the Gorham High School prom.
State and local police are still investigating the collision that killed Steven Delano, 18, and injured three other teenagers, but rain-soaked roads may have been a factor, said Scarborough Officer Tim Dalton.
Makeshift memorials have sprung up near the crash site, just north of Holmes Road, and in the parking space at Scarborough High where Delano, an avid mechanic and outdoorsman, usually parked his prized Chevrolet pickup truck.
"We're experiencing how fragile life is," said Nicolas Scheyder, a Scarborough High senior who visited the crash site Monday morning. "It's just weird who makes it and who doesn't."
The impact of Delano's death also was felt at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center, where he studied building trades with students from several area high schools, and at Portland High School, where his father worked.
The three other students in Delano's car are expected to recover fully from their injuries, said Patricia Conant, principal of Scarborough High. The driver of the tanker truck that hit Delano's car, Nathan Allen, 38, of Casco, wasn't injured, police said.
The accident happened about 5:25 p.m. as Delano was driving west on Holmes Road where it crosses Payne Road, Dalton said.
Delano and his best friend, Kevin Grondin, were in the front seat of a 2006 white Pontiac G6, Conant said. Their dates, two girls who attend Gorham High, were in the back seat.
They were on their way to the Gorham High prom at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland, Dalton said. They had been at Delano's house in Scarborough, where they posed for photographs, and were heading to Gorham because one of the girls forgot her prom tickets at home.
As Delano's car crossed Payne Road, the empty jet-fuel tanker truck driven by Allen was heading north on Payne Road, Dalton said. Allen works for J.P. Noonan Transportation based in West Bridgewater, Mass.
The tanker truck broadsided the driver's side of Delano's car, pushed it about 100 feet down Payne Road and into a ditch on the east side of the road. The car landed on its roof.
Drugs or alcohol don't appear to have been a factor, Dalton said, but a wet road may have contributed to the crash.
"At this point, it doesn't look like anyone involved was under the influence," Dalton said. "There's a lot of follow-up and investigating that needs to be done, especially because it involves a tractor-trailer."
Dalton said investigators may never be able to determine the exact cause of the accident or whether one of the drivers failed to stop at the intersection's traffic light. No charges have been filed.
'AN INDICATION OF WHO HE WAS'
Delano was an organ donor, Conant said. "That's sort of an indication of who he was."
Grondin suffered several broken facial bones but no lacerations, Conant said. Grondin, a member of Scarborough's class of 2010, graduated in January and was preparing to start military service soon.
Grondin hadn't planned to participate in the high school's graduation ceremony on June 13, Conant said, but his parents have indicated that he probably will march with his class in the wake of the crash and the loss of his friend.
One of the girls who was riding in Delano's car suffered a broken collarbone and a sprained ankle, Conant said. The other has bruises from her seat belt. The girls haven't been identified, she said.
Some students at the Gorham High prom knew about the crash, Conant said, but school officials asked them not to share the information so the evening could continue uninterrupted.
Chris Record, principal of Gorham High, didn't respond to a request for comment Monday.
At Scarborough High, students have spray-painted goodbye messages to Delano, such as "Rest in Paradise," on the pavement and columns leading to the front entrance.
"Last week, it would have been vandalism," Conant said. "Today, it's memorializing."
Conant met with teachers early Monday morning and counselors were on hand throughout the day to help students who might need it. Banners were hung in hallways so students could write messages to Delano and his family.
Conant remembered Delano as a "good school citizen" and an upbeat person who was known for his impish grin and his love of hunting, fishing and four-wheeling.
RIBBONS AT GRADUATION
With that in mind, senior class officers plan to ask the high school's 1,100 students to wear camouflage or flannel shirts one day this week to coincide with memorial services, and seniors also plan to wear camouflage ribbons at graduation.
Other remembrances also may be planned for Scarborough High's prom on June 5, senior banquet on June 7, baccalaureate service on June 9 and final senior assembly and awards night on June 10.
"It's going to be a long month ahead," Conant said.
Delano's parents, Cindy and Mark Delano, have made funeral arrangements through the Conroy-Tully Crawford Funeral Home, 1024 Broadway, South Portland. Visiting hours will be Thursday and Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. A funeral will be held Saturday morning, at a time to be determined, at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church, 150 Blackpoint Road, Scarborough.
Conant said she hoped that parents will accompany students who plan to attend the memorial services.
"For many of them, it's the first time they have experienced such a loss and their parents should be there to support them," Conant said.
Scott Delano, Steven Delano's older brother, graduated from Scarborough High in 2008 and is serving in the Army in Afghanistan. He is expected to travel home for the funeral, Conant said.
The family declined a request to comment for this story.
Cindy Delano, the boys' mother, is a nurse at Maine Medical Center, Conant said. She plans to visit Scarborough High later this week to let students know how much she appreciates their support, Conant said.
PORTLAND HIGH SENIORS DONATE
Mark Delano, the boy's father, has been a supervising custodian at Portland High for several years. On Monday morning, senior class officers at Portland High decided to donate $600 to the senior class at Scarborough High in memory of Steven Delano and in support of his family.
"The seniors here said they wanted to reach out to the Scarborough senior class and make a donation for them to use as they see fit," said Mike Johnson, principal of Portland High.
At Westbrook Regional Vocational Center, Delano was a foreman in the building trades program and supervised students from several other high schools, including Westbrook, Gorham, Windham and Bonny Eagle.
This year, Delano's crew was building a super-insulated house, said Todd Fields, the center's director. Delano's responsibilities included everything from ordering materials to making decisions at the construction site.
"Steve's death definitely reaches beyond the Scarborough school community," Fields said. "He was a student that other students looked up to. He had a dry sense of humor and way of relating to people that was very genuine. He always gave me grief about my work boots because I didn't have steel toes."
CRASH SITE MEMORIAL
At the memorial near the crash site on Payne Road, students and others have left dozens of bouquets, heartfelt notes and several crosses, including one made from two pieces of silver trim from the car that Delano was driving.
A checkered flag recalls Delano's love of NASCAR. A bottle of Mountain Dew represents his favorite soda. A note written on a bag of Dunkin' Donuts tells of a debt paid too late: "Steve -- The donuts that I never got you -- Chan."
Around noon Monday, a woman dropped off a potted plant, a bleeding heart with a single white blossom.
She told students gathered at the memorial that her husband died in a car accident 35 years ago.
Joe Nappi, a Scarborough High senior who was one of Delano's friends, carried the plant into the shady ditch and knelt down. He dug a hole with the trowel that the woman provided and mounded soil around the stem.